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How our work with employers is supporting Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy

Posted by. Jess Sewter
Posted on 17 April 2019

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​Jess Sewter, Head of Partnerships, Placements and Employment, writes about Leeds Trinity University's work with employers - and how we're supporting Leeds City Council's 2018-2023 Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy.

Last week, Leeds City Council hosted an event at Leeds Town Hall to focus on the 'People' strand of the Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy - which incorporates four of the Strategy's 'twelve big ideas':

  • Best city for health and wellbeing
  • Putting children at the heart of the growth strategy
  • Working together to create better jobs, tackling low pay and boosting productivity
  • Employers and people at the centre of the education and skills system

The wide range of organisations represented at the event really demonstrated how important and far reaching just one strand of the Strategy is, but also how unified we are in putting people at the heart of what we do. 

The session was launched by Eve Roodhouse (Chief Officer of Economic Development), Councillor Judith Blake (Leader) and Tom Riordan (Chief Executive) from Leeds City Council.

Councillor Blake welcomed us to the event, explaining that this was the first ever meeting with externals to discuss the 12 big ideas. She commented:

"Leeds hasn't always had the recognition it deserves, but it's beginning to attract attention now - particularly with the arrival of Channel 4. We're doing things differently in Leeds and putting people at its heart." 

To back this statement, she said that 60% of the Council's budget is spent on adult and children social care, that the Council is a living wage employer and has ambitions for Leeds to be the first living wage city in the UK. She has recently signed a paper declaring a climate emergency, and wants the people of Leeds to understand the impact of climate change not just on the climate, but on its people and social justice. She added: "Leeds should go out with confidence and celebrate its edginess and diversity."

Eve Roodhouse reinforced the importance of the 'people' strand and that ultimately everyone should feel the benefits from the economic prosperity of the city region. Tom Riordan mentioned how Leeds is now recognised on a national scale and that its focus on people is a result of this, but warned we still have work to do. He said:

"The city doesn't put people in temporary accommodation and as a result has two-thirds less of a housing problem than other cities, yet there is still lots to do to reduce rough sleeping. Our employment rate is at 78% but some jobs are not paid enough and we need to do more. Our biggest opportunity for development is in health and wellbeing, especially around mental health." 

Addressing the recruitment crisis in Leeds

Following the welcome and introductions, the meeting broke out into groups to cover the four ideas within the 'People' strand. We were asked to present on our work with employers to address the recent recruitment crisis and digital skills shortage within the tech sector as a case study for the 'Employers and people at the centre of the education and skills system' agenda.

I presented with Tom Davidson, Head of Technology at Sky, on co-creating a new Computer Science degree at Leeds Trinity, how we did it and lessons learned.

We talked about how we created a steering group of key tech employers to ensure we embedded the skills and approach employers wanted with real world projects at the heart of the degree. 

Tom told the group how refreshing it was from an employer perspective to have a blank piece of paper to advise Leeds Trinity on what skills and knowledge are most needed and how these should be assessed.

I talked about our Employer Advisory Boards, which we run for every academic area to keep up-to-date with sector changes and how ongoing dialogue with employers is essential to keep curriculum fresh and relevant. We discussed the importance of giving students real-life examples to build confidence, to work with and present to employers, and we talked about our wider digital skills project to help meet the needs of the local job market and how we are embedding digital training across all academic areas, helping students apply digital skills into their own subject specialism.

There was also a chance to open up a debate about whether digital really is accessible to all. ​At Leeds Trinity, we're delivering digital bootcamps for career changers in the summer and developing digital apprenticeships for an alternative salaried route for people to get into the digital sector. It was agreed that universities and employers need to support schools more with the digital agenda, young people can then realise earlier that a career in tech is for anyone and everyone.

The key lessons learned were:

  • Employer and education collaboration is key to the city's growth
  • Listen to the local labour market, be responsive – it makes things happen!
  • Develop students to be flexible, adaptable and open to opportunities
  • Embed digital skills within programmes to help students apply and further develop
  • Foster lifelong learning – a degree is just the start!

After a full morning, Eve Roodhouse described the event and 'people' theme a 'rich and emotive one', covering children and health and wellbeing to employment and opportunity.

Leeds Trinity University is proud to be recognised as a Leeds organisation that is people-focused, collaborative and understands what can be achieved when employers, education and young people work together. 

We will be doing lots more on the digital front and working more with employers to create programmes and make pathways to jobs more accessible to all, so watch this space!